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Various Artists Virus Syndicate Present Contagious Vol. 1

London is the center of the grime universe, but Virus Syndicate wants to put Manchester on the map. The crew (producer MRK1 and MCs Nika D, JSD, and Goldfinger) lays down bass-heavy beats and rhymes that don't sacrifice crispness in their quickness. There's real cleverness here, as on "Cant Do the Rhyme," where they call out MCs who "don't make sense most of the time." And unlike Lady Sovereign, the crew doesn't try to make its songs pop-friendly MTV fodder. It's not all smooth, though: The constant references to their MySpace page sound desperate, and some tracks never quite gel (Poet Shadeo's "No Style"). But this trip could be the ticket to expand your grime horizons.

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